Translation Fellows

Each year, the Yiddish Book Center Translation Fellowship selects a group of emerging translators who are versed in Yiddish language and culture.

2020 Translation Fellows:

Jonathan Boyarin is a cultural anthropologist who has taught at Wesleyan University, Dartmouth, the University of Kansas, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since 2013, he has served as the Diann G. and Thomas A. Mann Professor of Modern Jewish Studies at Cornell University, where he is currently the director of Jewish studies. Jonathan’s work centers on Jewish communities and on the dynamics of Jewish culture, memory, and identity. His work as a Yiddish translator includes From a Ruined Garden: The Memorial Books of Polish Jewry, A Fire Burns in Kotsk by Menashe Unger, and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Kotsk: The Struggle for Integrity (unpublished).

Jonah Sampson Boyarin is a New York-based educator, organizer, and Yiddish translator, and he serves as the Jewish communities liaison at the New York City Commission on Human Rights. He has published political and cultural analysis essays for Jewish Currents Magazine and In geveb, among other publications. Last year he developed a curriculum about coalition-based strategies to combat rising antisemitism and white nationalism, which he taught to a variety of audiences, including Jewish non-profits, public high school youth, and non-Jewish grassroots community organizations. Before that, Jonah served for six years as a full-time youth educator-leader, earning his Master of Education in 2013. He cofounded the first-ever diversity & equity program at a Jewish day school in the US, at JCHS of the Bay in San Francisco, in 2016. In 2017, with the generous support of the Yiddish Book Center’s Translation Fellowship, Jonah translated a Holocaust memoir, subsequently published in excerpted form in several venues. He spends his free time watching the Knicks lose and the Yankees win, as well as singing zmiros and niggunim with his friends.

Alec Burko usually goes by Leyzer, which is the Yiddish version of his middle name. Leyzer is currently a Yiddish lecturer at the University of Indiana in Bloomington, but most of his forty-two years have been spent in New York. He first became interested in the Yiddish language because of family—his mother also studied it and his grandfather spoke it well—and because of his earlier field, Germanic philology (medieval English and German, etc.). Leyzer came to this current project—the translation of the songs of the Jewish underworld—by way of another project of his, the compilation of a Yiddish dialect dictionary (his own unfunded private adventure still in a very preliminary state). These underworld songs, mostly collected by folklorists in Poland in the early twentieth century, are an important source of underworld slang vocabulary that he would like to include in the dictionary. But while reading these folk songs, mostly composed by uneducated people at the very bottom of the social pyramid, he was struck by their emotional power and by the human stories involved—of a sort we don't typically read in Yiddish. He believes these songs deserve to be made accessible to a broader public.

Beth Dwoskin earned a master's degree in Jewish studies from the University of Michigan. She is a librarian who catalogs Judaica at the Hatcher Graduate Library at the University of Michigan. Her translations of articles about Yiddish actress and singer Regina Prager will appear in Women on the Yiddish Stage (forthcoming from Syracuse UP). An enthusiastic singer of Yiddish, Beth sang a Goldfaden aria made famous by Prager at Yiddish New York in 2019. She translated articles about Regina Prager, Bertha Kalich, and Rivka Boyarska from the Zilbercweig Lexicon for the Museum of Family History ( Her article, "Dos lid funem hemd: a Yiddish translation of a classic Victorian poem," which appeared in Zutot in 2015, explores Morris Winchevsky's Yiddish translation of "The Song of the Shirt," a celebrated English poem. She will translate a collection of plays for children written by Leah K. Hoffman, a well-known writer of Yiddish material for children in early twentieth century America.

Oliver 'Ollie' Elkus is a Yiddish teacher and translator born in Cincinnati, OH who is currently living a vagabond year while translating his first full length book project, Mayn tatns kretshme (My Father's Tavern). Ollie likes to bake bread, play drums, and drink tea. My Father's Tavern is a collection of memoirs written by Yitzkhok Horowitz chronicling his coming of age as a son of the village innkeeper in Poprikan (Romanian: Propicani), Romania at the turn of the twentieth century. 

Shahar Fineberg resides in Paris and writes for screen and for radio. He hosts Yiddish haynt, the Paris Yiddish Center bi-weekly radio program, where his “radiophonic strolls,” as well as his dramatic recitations, have become a staple of the show. His forthcoming satire for television, written with his longtime writing partner Amir Zeidani, is currently in development. He will be translating A. Lutzky’s Gresere improvizatsyes, dazzling recitative poems elaborated by Lutzky in the 1920s, which Avrom Reyzen called “a new genre in Yiddish—and possibly world—poetry.” As part of the Fellowship, he intends to produce a recorded version of the English translation.

Sonia Gollance is a visiting assistant professor in the department of Germanic languages and literatures at the Ohio State University, where she directs the Yiddish and Ashkenazic studies program. Her first book, on the taboo of mixed-sex dancing in modern Jewish literature and culture, is forthcoming with Stanford University Press. Sonia serves as managing editor of Plotting Yiddish Drama, the Digital Yiddish Theatre Project’s database of Yiddish play synopses. This work has led her to develop a research interest in Yiddish plays by women. Sonia will be translating Tea Arciszewska’s Miryaml, a play about the Holocaust from the perspective of children. Deftly incorporating modernist elements with themes from Ashkenazic folk culture, Arciszewska’s Miryaml received the 1954 Alexander Shapiro Prize for best Yiddish drama from the World Jewish Culture Congress.

Miriam Isaacs is a linguist and Yiddishist holding degrees from Brooklyn College and Cornell University. She is a native speaker of Yiddish and has published scholarly articles about Yiddish in DP camps and in Hassidic communities. Miriam will be translating the 1974 autobiography of Yiddish comedian Shimon Dzigan. It has never been translated into any language. Miriam previously participated in the Yiddish Book Center’s Translation Fellowship in 2016, translating poetry by Rokhl Korn.

Matthew Johnson is a PhD candidate in Germanic studies at the University of Chicago. His research and teaching interests include Yiddish- and German-language literature in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, German-Jewish studies, translation theory and practice, and memory studies. He is currently working on his dissertation, titled "Faltering Language: German-Yiddish Literature after 1900." In 2019/20, he is the Fulbright Junior Fellow at the Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften in Vienna and a member of the Posen Society of Fellows. Matt's project centers on previously untranslated poetry and prose by the modernist writer Moyshe-Leyb Halpern. The project also incorporates the textual history of Halpern's work through an examination of his unpublished manuscripts.  

Annie Sommer Kaufman is an active member of the Yiddishist community. She served as the coordinator of Yiddish Vokh for five years, was on the founding board of Yiddish Farm, and currently teaches Yiddish through the Arbeter Ring and YIVO in Chicago. She teaches Talmud at The Lace Midrash and runs the sewing program at RefugeeOne, Illinois's largest refugee resettlement agency. She will be translating Avreml broide, the first novel of Ben Gold, an important American communist labor leader, which he dedicated to his union comrades who died in the Spanish Civil War.

Moshe Zeilingold has completed an MFA in fiction from Columbia University. He is currently translating Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation into Yiddish and serves as director of the Sholem Aleichem Cultural Center in the Bronx. As part of the 2020 Translation Fellowship, he will be translating selected poems from Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman’s published work.

"What can I say? I felt encouraged, spurred on, supported and part of a community of wonderful, brilliant people."
A former translation fellow